If you have been involved in a car accident, there are several steps you need to take to protect your rights. Ideally, you should contact an experienced car accident attorney in South Carolina who can advise you as to what the important “do’s and don’ts” are immediately following your accident.
While contacting your car accident lawyer as soon as possible is still crucial, here are a few important points to take note of in case you are ever involved in a motor vehicle collision and have a lag time before you are able to obtain legal advice.
Step One: Seek Necessary Medical Treatment
It is essential that you seek necessary medical care after a collision. If you or any of your passengers are seriously injured, call an ambulance right away.
For minor injuries, use your discretion; it is ok to wait until after speaking with police before seeking medical attention. However, visit a physician to be examined and receive treatment as soon as you are able.
If you are unsure as to the severity of your injury, it is still wise to make an appointment to have your primary care physician evaluate you for any latent injuries that may not be readily apparent. If you suffered an injury that only makes itself known in the following days or weeks, it is important to have established a record of your medical condition at the time of the accident so that the other driver’s insurance company cannot argue that you hurt yourself in another manner following the accident, or that you had a pre-existing condition.
Step Two: Call Law Enforcement
After you have seen to your medical needs, the next thing for you to do following a car accident is to call the police. Even if you believe the accident was a minor “fender-bender” it is still a good idea to have a police record of what occurred. In fact, many insurance companies require a police report to process a claim.
Police are trained to investigate the scene of the accident and make notations as to how the accident occurred. They may take witnesses’ statements and gather evidence and documentation as to what happened. In addition, if the police officer determines the other party to be “at fault” she may issue a ticket to them for the traffic violation. This can potentially be beneficial in the event of any future claim that may become necessary, should the issue of causation arise.
Once the police officer has filed her report, you will be given a copy of the report. If you misplace this report, don’t worry, you or your car accident attorney may obtain a copy through the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.
Step Three: Obtain Information On All Parties Involved
After you have contacted the police, it is important that you take advantage of your opportunity to take note of who the witnesses are. Get their names and addresses if possible. You do not have to wait for a police officer to arrive. There is no guarantee that the witness will remain on the scene. You may seek out the names and insurance information for all the other drivers involved in the collision. Your car accident attorney will be able to contact the other insurers and negotiate with them on your behalf. You may also want to take note of the passengers’ names as well.
Step Four: Take Photographs and Record Evidence
The old recommendation was always for drivers to keep a disposable camera in their glove compartment to be used to photograph evidence following a car accident. Nowadays, almost everyone has a phone with camera capabilities and having digital copies that can be saved in multiple locations can provide an added benefit. If you always have your smart phone with you, a better tip might be to store an extra phone charger in your glove compartment instead.
Regardless, you will want photographs of the accident scene and the surrounding areas. Make sure to photograph the license plates of the other vehicles in case anyone decides to drive away before police arrive.
You may want to photograph the positions of the cars; how they collided; you may also document street signs, intersections, weather conditions at the time, and of course the damage to your vehicle as well as the other cars involved. Be sure to take note of any damage to other vehicles that appears to be preexisting. Note the appearance and demeanor of the other drivers to help determine if anyone is behaving aggressively or appears to be intoxicated.
You may photograph the insurance cards and contact information of the other drivers, and their licenses as well.
Step Five: Apologies: Be Careful What You Say
Many people are surprised to learn how your behavior following an accident can have a significant impact on a personal injury claim. While everyone wishes the accident had not occurred, it is important to avoid making statements that may be misconstrued and used against you in later proceedings – even an apology.
Even if you believe that you were at fault – either partially or wholly- you should be mindful of what you say. Any expression of regret could be taken as an admission of guilt. Be cordial and polite. Avoid playing the blame game; even if other party is throwing around accusations or appears angry or confrontational. If anyone is injured, it is perfectly acceptable to inquire whether they are injured and offer assistance if necessary.
Step Six: Be Truthful and Succinct
When speaking with police, always be truthful. You do yourself no favors by lying to the police. However, there is no need to offer up more information than is necessary. Non-essential information can easily lead to misunderstandings, and can later be twisted and turned against you at a later proceeding. Be brief and succinct when answering questions. Listen to the question that the officer asks, and respond directly.
Often an investigating officer is left with only a “he-said, she-said” scenario. In these situations in-particular, it is important to remember that the FACT that you were not at fault, may not be as important as your appearance and demeanor. So take a deep-breath, and calmly explain to the officer what happened.
Step Seven: Consult an Experienced Car Accident Attorney in South Carolina
Once you have spoken with the police and they have completed their initial investigation, you should visit both your physician and your South Carolina car accident lawyer.
The Law Office of H. Chase Harbin employs an experienced car accident investigator on staff who can assist with accident reconstruction should your claim require it. Our skilled auto accident lawyers in South Carolina can help you every step of the way following your car accident; from making those initial calls to your insurance company; to filing a claim and negotiating with big insurance companies. If the insurance company doesn’t want to pay what you’re entitled-to, We are ready for Trial.
Chase Harbin is a Criminal Defense Lawyer who practices in Pickens and Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 17 years now. Chase Harbin believes in defending the accused. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.